Monday, December 29, 2008

Limbo

The period between Xmas and the New Year is an odd place, isn't it? It's the one time of the year when shopping for crockery is genuinely gripping.

It's also easy to write off an entire day by thinking "ooh, you know, I'll have a little glass of wine with lunch". Which turns into a bottle, the St Trinian's movie, and then a weird wandering around the flat at 9pm muttering "but, I've done no work, and I don't want to watch any more TV, so I'll just go back to bed, but I'm not really tired and why have all the painkillers turned into anti-histamines and laxatives?"

So, a fitful night of sleep, when, due to the magic of text, I realised that I'd missed going drinkering with a fun ex, and another friend was having a drunken row with someone that I was accidentally on the receiving end of.

The cat was puzzled. I've replaced the thick sheet I normally sleep under with a duvet, as she's spent the last few nights remorselessly attacking the duvet mice which are my feet. As I'm now a deep sleeper, this guarantees me weird dreams about razor blades, and mornings spent hobbling on bloodied stumps to the germolene.

So, duvet. Which puzzled the cat. But it took her about ten minutes to burrow underneath it and carry on attacking my feet.

Not the best night's sleep. At 5am I found myself in the courtyard watching the cat take an al fresco crap. I'm going to try and have a more exciting day today.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Xmas

Well, here we are again. This year Christmas was spent in London - mostly with the cat ("tuna? for breakfast? well, this is kind you obsessed moron. i guess this means i'm still your substitute for a functioning relationship? sigh. PS meow"), and then an afternoon stomping the nearly deserted streets of London with Lee.

Things we learned:
  • Strada is open on Christmas Day
  • London at Xmas is not actually like Survivors. The lack of public transport means the streets are full of alarmed "I haven't done this for a year" drivers, managing to panic in second gear. On the way home, some police had pulled over a weeping couple who were had shot the wrong way up a one way street onto the bus lane on London Bridge.
  • Serial killers? No wonder they put the Wallace and Gromit special out so late.


On Boxing Day I went to the PC World sale at 8am. And brought some folders. For 47p.

Next door was Sainsbury's. With a big sign saying "Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day", but that didn't stop people hammering on the door and doing "Are you open?" sign language to the two staff inside.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fringe again

So, by episode 5, it's not just stealing from the X Files.

In episode 4 there's a WHOLE SCENE stolen from Doctor Who: Midnight (the overlapping speech thing). In episode 5, JJ Abrams actually steals a lift crash from his own show Alias.

And yet... it's not Terminator. It kind of means well. Special Agent Pram Face still scowls through it (do women no longer smile on American TV?), and the "Massive Dynamic" plotline is already looking shoehorned in (Why don't they just call themselves Evil Inc?). But... oh...

***

Meanwhile, in other news, my subscription to Entertainment Weekly has finally turned up. It is great and tells me that Dollhouse is already facing a ratings problem as it's being put out after Sarah Connor. Good luck there.

And, bizarrely, we witnessed two gays on an actual date at an all-you-can-eat last night. I love watching straights on a date there (he looks delighted, she always looks horrified). But these were your proper gays. One of them was such a minty twiglet he pushed a piece of prawn toast around his plate while snapping his pouty blonde fingers at the waiters. The other was all muscle and grin. They didn't seem to be there ironically. Which is the only point, surely?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ida Barr's Christmas Show


I've always loved the rapping pensioner. I've seen her in dingy pubs, in community theatres, in a tent, and now she's at the Barbican, bless 'er. This was originally going to be "Ida Barr's Christmas Bingo" (probably using Ida's fiendishly complicated calling system - "No better than what she oughta, my care assistant's daughter - only 13"), but she's gone one better and manages a whole 90 minute show of her rapping, singing, and rambling on in her decrepit way. Her waspish tongue proves that octogenarians can get away with murder ("My dear old mother used to say 'Be a can, don't be a can't.'").

There's a game of musical chairs. And it ends with the audience doing the Hokey Cokey. Blissy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dazed and confused

The cat is back from her stay with the A Gays. She appears to be snow-blind from a week of minimalism. And oh, she's changed. When she used to howl to be let out, it was an aimless wail. Now there's a purpose, as though she's saying, "Look, I'm on the guest list at Green Carnation. No, don't follow."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fringe


I don't like this yet. I may do. But it's essentially JJ Abrams does The X Files (I nearly typed that as JJ Abrams does The X Factor, which would be a whole other world of wonder, wouldn't it? Simon Cowell would get a backstory, Louis Walsh would have lots of improbable Irish flashbacks, and Cheryl Cole would get lots of fight scenes. Blissy!).

I don't hate Fringe, although plenty of people do. I just keep giving it final chances. Will Sour-Faced Special Agent stop sitting around on park benches looking poignant? Will Joshua Jackson stop looking like this is beneath him (How Dare YOU?!?!)? And when will they get rid of those fucking 3-D Letters In The Sky that set up each scene? (Just once I'd like to see one hovering over a building that says "Pretentious Wank").

The pilot was all over the cocking shop. Terrorists! Duplicates! A Race Against Time! Lovable Eccentrics! An Arc Plot! A Pensioner Mansonator (imagine Penelope Keith with a robot arm. That!). All fine. And then came The Twist. The Twist that was So Clever you felt your feet pulled from under you... or rather, you just felt a bit baffled and giddy before your chin hit the floor. If you've seen it, you'll know what I mean. It's that moment when you go "What? Hang on. What a sodding waste of my time."

Episode Two went back to the X Files for its inspiration... unfortunately they chose the second X Files film, and served up a grisly serial killer runaround... but with A Twist. There's that settling fear that it's basically The X Files all over again. There are still secret groups who meet in hidden rooms. There are wheels within wheels. No-one is who they seem. And we've got two charismatic leads with undeniable chemistry.

That last bit is a lie. As I said, we have a pram-faced Blanchett impersonator and I-Can't-Believe-I-Fancied-Him-In-Dawson's-Creek who now looks like William Riker.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

While I'm away

Lee is looking after my cat. And using it as a fur-covered excuse to criticise every single aspect of my life. I hate him.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The great escape

The cat has discovered how to unlock the cat flap. She has a great sense of triumph but no sense of direction. The last three nights of sleep have involved a mix of the following:

1) Cat leaping through flap. Going on tiny voyage of discovery. Coming back through. Waking me up to tell me what fun that was.

2) Waking up shivering to realise the cat is sat half through the flap, staring out into the night while all the hot air in the flat gently ruffles her fur as it whistles past.

3) Getting out of bed at Farming Today-o-clock to try and track down the distant cries for help. She's always invariably sat outside the flat downstairs outraged that I've moved.

There is a new joy to having a cat made mostly out of vast amounts of fur. On patrol this morning, someone opened a metal door next to her. All her fur stood on end. And it's a lot of fur.
 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Man of the week

I've not exactly been bothered about men for... crikey, six months now. Coo. Mind you, I've hardly been celibate - I've just been getting on with other stuff. But the odd man of note toddles along. F'rinstance, this weekend's Gentleman Friend:

1) He looked like he'd just stolen a car.
2) He threw me up against a brick wall
3) And then pistol-whipped me.
4) But not with a pistol.

He then proceeded to whisper a suggestion in my ear so outrageous that I promptly went home and fed the cat. Getting back on the horse is one thing. Galloping all the way to Kettering is quite another.
 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quietly

Spent an hour yesterday afternoon doing local radio circuit punditry about Oliver Postgate. Because I was asked, because I'd spoken to him on the phone a couple of times, and because it was an honour, etc.

At the end of an hour sat in a cubicle in Millbank I realised my flies had been undone the entire time. There's some kind of John Barrowman link there, isn't there?

Oh, Facebook

Is bombarding me with adverts for "Ultimate Gay Grooming". Um. They didn't think that phrasing through very carefully, did they?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Curiously

My cat has started getting post. A clothing catalogue turned up for her the other day.

Oliver Postgate

Damn. But Emily loved him. As did we all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

State Opening

They closed off Westminster and St James's Park to traffic this morning for the State Opening of Parliament. Which meant walking my bike for a mile along eerily quiet, almost deserted streets, past ranks and ranks of policemen with guns.

The only flash of humanity was the occasional tourist with wheelie luggage who had decided to stand still and have a gawp, just in case something picturesque happened.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The scream of love

So, last week, the cat does A Cute Thing. In order to get breakfast at 5am, she slides gently up the bed and nuzzles me lovingly in the face, purring quietly and rubbing my nose until i blink and wake up. At which point, she gives a delighted little mew, another nuzzle and then trots off to the kitchen.

Naturally, I give in, whilst thinking "that is the most selfish thing I've ever shared a bed with that isn't blonde."

Of course, cats being cats, she's discovered something that works, and has repeated it every morning since. Unfortunately, the loving tarnish has worn off and her true nature has emerged. Instead of the gentle nuzzling, purring and kissing, she's settled for the short cut of jumping on my throat and screaming in my face.

Is it wrong to pray for a road traffic accident?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blowing Whistles

When will I learn my lesson about Token Gay Plays? Blowing Whistles was two hours of gays screaming at each other, with the odd brilliant one-liner. At times it wanted to be The Doll's House. At times it wanted to be Pinter/Orton/Victoria Wood. But mostly it just settled for tackling serious gay issues while ensuring the blonde one took his top off.

Despite international acclaim, Tim and I hated it. So, we decided to shove its message about the true meaning of Gay Pride and instead go for a sneering drink in 79 CXR. If you've never been, imagine the Queen Vic after a gaypocalypse. This is where the zombies would drink. It was dark, two old skinheads snogged up against the fire escape, and the toilets offended every law of hygiene and morality. People are either looking for a late drink or late sex. "This is the true meaning of Gay Pride," said Tim, and we clinked our glasses.

And then I started to laugh. When I was 21 my heart was broken by a model (It's an epic saga involving murder, drugs and the yellow trousers of the Junior Dean of Manchester College Oxford). Anyway, he was beautiful, he was nasty, and he never stopped with the impression that he was too good for me (his nicknames for me were "baldy", "fatty" and "pencil dick" - grrrr). He was the boyfriend who taught me that men aren't actually that good for you.

And there he was. After all these years. Standing in a dark corner of 79 CXR, between the fruit machine and a man with piercings and a comb-over. He's aged - well - but he's aged. He was wearing a jumper with a knitted snowflake pattern. And he was there!

Tim and I raised our glasses and smiled over at him. There we were, having an ironic late drink in the worst place we could find. And there he was. This was the best he could manage for his evening. Unsuccessfully cruising for sex in the last, last, last chance saloon. The man who'd been in magazines and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's sister. Who'd been flown across the world by rich young record executives. And now he was having to shuffle aside so that a drunk lumberjack could spill his pint over the slot machine.

Sometimes, revenge may take a decade. But it comes. Of course, Lee will just say this proves that my taste in men has always been rubbish. And I'll agree. But I'll argue my timing has never been better.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Social interaction fail

So, I wander into work, I flash my pass, the security guard smiles at me, and without thinking I reply by making the "chuch chuch chuch" chirrup that I greet the cat with.

I am in the lift before I realise what I've done.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Missed opportunity

After John Sergeant leaving Strictly there was definitely a chance for me to runinate on the whole "Human or Dancer" debate. But that moment has passed.

Sadly inevitable

BBC cancels Bonekickers.

I am distraught. I am reliably informed it wasn't buried, but cremated. Accidentally.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tech fail

I still haven't explored all the functions on my lovely new laptop. The other day, I clicked an untried icon on my desktop, and up popped a picture of a smiling man with stubble.

Goodness, I thought, that's a jolly handy button. And then I realised. I'd found the webcam.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Sarah Connor Chronicles

God knows why I'm still watching this, but I can't do without it. And I know I'm not alone in this.

When they come to write "The Big Book of Television Missed Opportunites" this will be up there, along with "Crossroads 90210". It's a telly series about Terminators and time travel and so on. And it's got Summer Glau and him from Heroes Who Used To Be Gay Then Wasn't Cos His Agent Complained And Then Got Written Out And You Would Do In Some Pictures But In Others He Looks Like He's A Regular At The G-A-Y Bar So No.

Season One was lurchingly inane with the odd weird moment (that scientist having a bath with a Terminator) and the odd great one (slo-mo gunfight at the end). And then mercifully there was the writer's strike, so you'd assume Season Two would be a complete reset.

And yes it is. Every single week. It's a new show every episode, none of them any good. They go undercover at a nuclear plant! Summer Glau scrambles her memory and becomes a hooker! Now it's set at a school! A therapy centre! A bowling alley! Back at the nuclear plant! Mexico! Hahahahahah-heeeeeheeeeheeeee-makeeeet-stopppppppp!

Just like last year's dead-end plot line about grafitti doors, this year we have the Special Moble Phone Code which you know is going somewhere - only it gets dropped without explanation.

They even do an episode which is "Told From Different Points Of View" which is "Groundbreaking Telly And The Best Thing Ever", unless you've seen Buffy, or even Star Trek: Next Generation, and even they did it better, but worth it cos Summer Glau is wearing an iddy biddy pink bra (cutes).

I think the reason I'm still watching though is the Shirley Mansonator. She's brilliant. Surrounded by people doing Serious TV Acting, she just doesn't bother. She looks hungover and bored, as though she's leafing idly through the script while the camera's not on her. She's great.

Although if you try and work out her motivation, you'll get giddy. Come on. Have a go. She's a Terminator from the futcha who has taken over an electronics corporation in order to do bad things, but she's also a hard working single mother who is pretending to be a vigilante intent on hunting down terminators while trying to develop an artificial intelligence despite, um, being quite an advanced one herself.
She likes Lego, though. No, really. She does. So she's great.

It's also worth it for Lena Hedley's Grim Expression. I imagine they have great fun trying to make her smile on set. But no, that sour face has been chemically set. She's grimmer than Dr Gillian Magwilde. Oh, I miss you Magwilde.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pleasingly

Found a livejournal page that reviews my book. Apparently, the naughty bits are being read in schools. There's even a review in (?) Polish ("Jestli je tohle ukazatel do budoucna, tak OMG YAY! :D."). Neato.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some talk of Alexander

I had a tiny bit of sex with a Coldstream Guard at the weekend. I only realised how funny this was when I did a google image search.
 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apparitions


Apparitions ain't no Bonekickers, more's the pity. Martin Shaw! Exorcism! Joe Ahearne! Clearly, this should be an instant BBC classic... but it ain't.

It looks beautiful. Martin Shaw is great - although it is hard to watch anything he's in without remembering that the entire cast is put on a strict vegan diet - I spend most of my time assuming everyone on screen is wistfully imagining bacon. Because it's Joe Ahearne the characters are thunderingly written, it's creepy, and it looks lovely.

And yet... it ends up being terrifying and dull, like a powerpoint presentation on staff restructuring. I found myself watching and loving it, and yet also pottering off to do some washing-up. And in any drama that has nuns, that's a bad sign.

Partly because the fiendishly complicated plot was broken down into endless scenes which went like this:

MARTIN SHAW: You're possessed by the demon
DEMON DAD: No I'm not!
MARTIN SHAW: (look of infinite regret with a twinkle) Yes, you are.
DEMON DAD: No, I'm not! (weeps tears of blood)

When one of these scenes takes place in a lighting shop, your heart sinks. Yes, it's so that Satan can switch all the lights off at the end of the scene (spooky), but it's all so mundane. You really don't get a sense of apocalypse when you're clocking the "sale" tags on halogen fittings.

Also, the gays don't come out of it well. Martin Shaw has a young seminary friend who is a bumder and worried that Satan cured his leprosy. When he's kicked out of the church he goes to a gay sauna and gets skinned alive by a demon. Which is tragic and poignant etc etc and yet feels Very Old Fashioned and Not Much Fun. I thought we'd moved beyond telly dramas that show All Gays End Unhappily?

It was probably making some kind of point higher than that, but it didn't register. And even in a gay sauna, the sounds of someone being skinned alive would attract attention - at the very least from pottering old voyeurs who mistook the screaming for someone having a Jolly Good Time.

I'll carry on watching though. It is, after all, Joe Ahearne, plus it has a nun in it who's dead snippy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Maxwell's Fullmooners

What could be better than an evening of vaguely burlesque comedy in a giant tent? Quite a lot, actually.

Kate and Rick have been raving about Andrew Maxwell's Fullmooners - a travelling event that only occurs on a full moon in eccentric locations. I've seen Andrew Maxwell, and he's brilliant. I've seen his assistant, Sir Tim, doing a great Edinburgh show about Morris Dancing across England. It all sounded rar.

Of course, I forgot, I don't do off-tube. Getting to Victoria Park required a tube, a train, a bus, and walking down a street of angry straight men kicking things (did they lose a sporty-woo?). By which time I was not in the mood for Funny.

That said, the tent was lovely. As was Andrew Maxwell and Sir Tim. There were only two problems - the acts and the audience. According to the website, an average Fullmooners gig includes Simon Pegg, or Russell Brand, or Marjorie Dawes. Or at least someone funny. But not this night. "Well, it is a long way for anyone good to come," sighed Kate. Even Andrew Maxwell was recycling material from his Edinburgh show, which considering this was an audience of groupies, seemed lazy.

Which brings me on to the audience. I went off "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" slightly when I realised the audience were even more middle-aged, middle-class and ghastly than I am. This was worse. This was a tent full of Comedy Is My Life-rs. If you like it so much, why not just sit back and enjoy it rather than constantly taking photos with the flash on?

As one of the comics pointed out, having been blinded for the twelth time, "Have you Facebooked that? Am I tagged? Will people believe you were here now? Go on - take another!"

And, if they weren't taking photos, they were texting. ZOMG and LOL, most probably. Maybe even a ROFL. Mind you, thank god they were, cos when the power went, the only light was all those twinkling little screens, no doubt each one reading "Power cut!!! omg!!! Sacry!!!!xxx"

It was a room full of people desperately telling each other and all their friends they were having a good time.

Mind you, Fullmooners deserves to be the best thing ever. After all, it has Andrew Maxwell and Sir Tim, who are brilliant - what's not to love about an Old Etonian drinking beer through a bugle whilst playing The Last Post? (mind you, that was charming on stage, but describing it makes it sound like a rugby club turn).

I just wish it had been more of them, and they hadn't bothered with anyone else.

The Haunted Cupboard

Very brief cat update (yeah, there is other stuff, and soon, promise): Why don't they issue them with flashcards?

When the thing first arrived, it just had one mew. This was fine. This mew meant everything from "Hungry" to "Scared" to "Need to Wee".

Now, of course, it's settled in, and there's a whole panoply of mewls, chirrups, and howls. Most of them I can make a guess at from "It's nearly dawn, that makes it Breakfast o'Clock" through to "You're not watching that rubbish again, are you?". But some remain a mystery.

I'm sat in the spare room, and the cat is doing what she always does when I'm in here. She walks in. She sniffs her favourite electrical cable (one day I'm going to come home and find a just tiny fur coat, aren't I?), and then she turns, looks at the wardrobe and screams. It's very disconcerting. I means - my dress sense can't be that bad, can it?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On being an author

Last night I got to go to my first ever publishing party. It actually seemed to be a room full of lovely people I already know drinking free wine, but still, what a nice feeling. Especially as they handed out little badges which had our names on and said "author" underneath. I think I managed to leave before I did or said anything ghastly... but I'm not sure.

The best bit of the evening was when I nipped out to buy cigarettes. Nice shop owner smiles and says "Excuse me - aren't you a writer?"

"Why yes," I say, preening mightily. "However did you know?"

"From you name badge," he replied.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

There Will Be Blood: Thomas The Tank Engine Edition



Genius.

Welcome to Wolverhampton



This is almost the first thing you see outside Wolverhampton train station. The second thing is a "nite club". Unlike Newport, things go rapidly uphill after that.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

baaaack


So, I'm back from a week in Scotland. It was lovely. Just some walking and eating and drinking and generally living the life of a prematurely retired gay. The cat was okay when I got back and is now the size of a house (the cat sitter has been overfeeding her).

Went to Wolverhampton today to give a talk about the job I used to do. Genuinely lovely madness. Had a brief moment of relaxed, unguarded candour, and then noticed the attractive young blonde man in the front row. He was holding a camcorder. And he winked. At which point I went smartly back on message.

Sadly, he didn't hang around afterwards. But a man who'd built a TARDIS in his shed did. Apparently it made unusual sounds due to the functioning plasmatron.

The train journey both ways was fascinating. Who are these people who drink beer at 10am? And, on the way back, a couple sat listening to a CD walkman (remember them), with one earphone each. Their eyes were closed, they were holding hands and they were smiling.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sachsgate Sackings

Well, it's all over, again. Mark Thompson finally emerged, blinking into the media spotlight like a mongoose suddenly appointed prep school headmaster. He gave the performance of an iron jelly, and then vanished.

My prediction that it'd just be the producer who got fired seems wildly wrong now. But then, Holy Moly points out that he was just filling in, while his uber-boss Lesley Douglas resigned rather than see him scape-goated. Good for her - it almost makes me forgive her for George Lamb and "women listen to music differently to men".

6Music is an interesting listen today. The giggling refrain of "ooh, we'd better not" and "we've been told we can't" suggests the gastric band of editorial policy has been tightened while terrified producers second guess every decision.

UPDATE: Of course, that didn't stop John Holmes from chatting to his co-host. "You've been reading the Book of Daniel?", "Yes. Chapter Six.", "Is that where he got thrown to the lions?" And, without a pause, he plays "Hanging on the telephone."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sachsgate: From the forums

Magigirl says on Digitalspy It's time to disband the BBC

We can't continue to fund the filth which is being broadcast in our name and at our considerable expense, and we can't afford to keep on filling the bulging pockets of the likes of Jonathon Ross to the tune of millions of pounds each year, only for them to broadcast filthy, offensive material in return.

Presumably, the BBC served a useful purpose many decades ago but it's now time for the madness to stop.

Sack Ross, and then split the the BBC into its component parts and sell it off to the private sector, the proceeds from the sale being divided and returned to those who funded it, which is us - the licence-paying public.


Um. Meanwhile, the Today Programme pointed out that it was the 70th Anniversary of the War of the Worlds radio show and, very quietly, drew a parallel between millions of people being frightened by a radio programme they hadn't heard, and thousands of people being offended by a phone call they hadn't heard...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sachsgate

I've met Andrew Sachs. I worked with him once. I was very hungover and trying not to vomit. This isn't so much declaring an interest as dropping a name. He was a nice man - very quiet, likes croissants, bit frosty. But then we had just had Hannah Gordon in and she'd shown us she could split an apple on her knee and that it was a skill that had really impressed John Lennon. "And I mean *really*" she'd twinkled.

Anyway, poor Andrew Sachs. It really is playing into the tabloids' grubby hands, though, isn't it? Aged National Treasure terrorised by Britain's Wealthiest Entertainers? Short of spit-roasting Joanna Lumley it's hard to work out what they could have done worse.

The really sad thing is that you just *know* what's going to happen. You can sense it as soon as phrases like "BBC Internal Inquiry" and "Urgent Investigation" start floating around. Will they fire Ross or Brand? No. In the end they'll simply sack the show's producer. He only earns thirty grand, he's nobody (even though he's got good hair). And it'll look responsible. They can issue a statement: "Clearly, both of them overstepped the mark. Maverick talent needs careful handling, and there was a clear failing in this case."

Which is one way of reading it. Another is to imagine a 25-year old producer trying to overrule two multimillionaires who could end his career instantly. A mistake happened. But personally, I hope he goes on to make many more.

Meanwhile, the vile 6Music-ruining Ray Davies-baiting George Lamb is still employed. Now that's a clear crime.

UPDATE: Well, they've been suspended. Mark Thompson is rushing back from holiday to hear from senior executives he's "tasked" with the investigation (I thought no-one still said "tasked" these days, but he does). But you just know they'll be back after a token wrist-slap. Firing Ross would mean the issue of his £18 million contract never left Mark Thompson.

AND: From an article about the BBC's Editorial Guidelines: "Radio producers do not have to worry about nudity or the use of strobe lights."

UPDATED AGAIN: And it seems as though Russell Brand has decided to spend more time with his strobe lights. But I bet they still boot the producer. Jonathan Ross meanwhile has apologised... saying he only waited so long because he wanted to do it on his tv show. Hmmmn. I remember I once tried a similar excuse with my mum. She didn't buy it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Vista

So, I love my new laptop. It's tiny and shiny. But I still hate Windows Vista. After only a week, its running speed has halved. And *every single day* it demands that it installs Important New Updates.

Curiously, my old Vista laptop didn't do this. So, I'm wondering - what's up? Why is Vista so shit? But every time I even think this, a window pops up saying "A User On This Computer Has Attempted Thought Crime".

Monday, October 27, 2008

On cable

I am a man. I own a whole box of cable. That's actually a lie. It's two boxes.

"Only connect," said EM Forster, and never a truer phrase was spoken about the male condition. That fundamental, driving force which compels man to Maplin, there to buy any number of coiled black leads with gold connectors that best link one black box to another.

This particular pon farr was caused by my new laptop. It is lovely. It is shiny. It has an HDMI port. I've never had one of those before, so had to buy a cable for it. Even better, my projector turns out to be HD-ready. Thrillingly this meant buying an HDMI to DVI cable. For £30. Which seemed a bit steep - but then who wouldn't want to update their Facebook status on a screen 10 feet high?

Of course, I got the cable home and discovered I'd bought an HDMI to Simple DVI cable, rather than the proper HDMI to DVI-30pin (RGB-CGA-MDA-EGA) cable. I looked on the internet. If I wanted to play that game, I'd have to buy the cable from Holland.

Every man knows their limits. I've got SCART-switching boxes. I've got S-video connectors that would make a monk blush. Despite being unable to drive I own several in-car chargers. I've even got a headphone-splitter jack in case a friend should say "I'd also like to listen to your taste in music on this interminable train journey" (This has never happened. This will never happen. But I have a cable, just in case).

But finally, here was the cable smackdown. The invitation had come - did I want to pony up and join the big boys? Did I want to get envious glances in Maplin? Did I want to be the person who says to guests "why yes - isn't the picture clear? I got this cable custom shipped in from Holland"?

The answer is no. Instead, I dangled my useless £30 cable from my hand and watched the cat chew on it happily.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to tell you've been in lower-middle-lower-management too long

Today, I had to edit some JavaScript. I suddenly realised I haven't done any JavaScript since 1999. That was last millennium. And it all looks terribly complicated, and I blundered through it like a clueless husband buying lingerie.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who to blame for winter?

Well, that was summer. We're now in that weird fortnight where I continually refuse to switch the central heating on and pretend that it's not yet cold enough to cycle wearing gloves.

Of course, it doesn't help that I've got all the windows open so that the cat can sit on the window ledges. She nearly caught a pigeon this morning, bless her. But that doesn't make up for the rain, which she has decided is My Fault.

I envy her. I would like to have something to blame for everything. When I was young it was my parents, Maggie, the school bully, or compulsory rugby. Now I'm older... there's no real single blame figure. Which makes things more complicated. I mean, the Today Programme has been really hard going recently, what with the Global Financial Meltdown (TM). Clearly it's someone's fault, but no-one's exactly clear who.

Personally, I would love to see Shit Miss Marple from ITV investigate the Global Credit Crisis. She'd gather the suspects in a room, twinkle at them coldly, and then calmly explain that it was caused by lesbians.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Do you take this man?

It's been a fortnight of weddings. One of two good friends, the other of a nice bloke to A Girl Who Is Not Right.

At the first wedding, I realised many of the guests were finance PRs. These are strange creatures. The women are stick thin salad chasers. The men all look jolly. A typical male PR thing to say is "You know Duffy, surely? Cambridge man, but a good stick. Had lunch with him the other day and knocked back quite a few jars, I can tell you."

At one point I sat talking to a particularly cherubic example. He stared at me glumly. "Did you act much at college?" he asked, sadly. "I was Romeo, once. In Romeo and Juliet, you know. Great fun." And then he sighed.

It must be terrible, actually, to be sentenced to a life of endless lunches talking about what fun there was to be had in the old days.

***

The other wedding (Nice Boy to Nasty Girl) was about what you'd expect. The groom looked sweet, the bride looked sour. The men stood around slapping each other on the back. The women sat in a row.

The cake had monogrammed napkins, which looked lovely. "Ah yes," said the groom, "But they're brown. The printers were supposed to do them in silver but they came back in brown. The Mrs went mad. It was hell." He glanced away, clearly contemplating a grim scene of primal rage, with torn brown napkins fluttering like soiled confetti.

I could never plan a wedding. Quite apart from my inability to form a relationship that last longer than the half-life of Francium, i can't stand the idea that it could shatter just because of the wrong colour of napkin.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On losing a cat

Clearly, the cat decided that one of us should get out more. So, off she went in the middle of the night.

Now, this isn't unusual - I'm accustomed to waking up at 5am to feed the fucker, realise she's got lost and potter around the estate in slippers shaking cat biscuits while she screams at me.

But this was different. I slept through till 7, by which time, she'd gone. And if there's one thing stupider than running around before dawn in pyjamas shouting "Florence", well, it'll be doing the same thing in daylight. Not a sign of her.

This was, naturally, a terrible thing. When you lose a Brazilian, there's always the hope that he'll call. But this was bad. I printed out a couple of lost cat posters, and tidied up the cat toys, thinking "well, at least I'll get my evenings back". The second stage of grieving was to think "Perhaps a nice ginger tom next." But mostly, I just felt a bit sad.

Six hours later she was posted back through the cat flap and darted under the bed. I opened the door, and standing sheepishly outside was a young boy. The child looked quietly miserable, even when I gave him £20 (is that okay these days, or somehow grooming?).

He explained that he'd heard her shouting outside his window and let her in. She'd spent the last six hours watching cartoons, stalking his pet bird, and hiding from his puppy. "I told Dad that I would like a cat too," he said proudly, "But he told me to bring her back." He then looked at me sadly, and I thought "would she be happier with a kid, a puppy and a doomed bird? Probably."

He smiled, "I have fed her. She really can eat, you know."

"I know," I said.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Co-ordination Update

This morning, I managed to cut my nose while shaving. Yes. My nose. I'm still trying to work out how.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why is Space Patrol the best show ever?

1) The dancing!



After a hard mission shooting aliens, the cast return to their undersea casino base, where they discuss stuff while in the background, there's Space Dancing of the first water. These are important scenes where the plot is explained - but no-one gives a shit, not with THAT going on in the background. As a result, no-one knows what's going on in Space Patrol.

2) The wigs!


None of the female hair in Space Patrol moves. The ship can be falling apart but the hair remains rock steady. In the future, all the women are fabulous and all the men have gone to seed. Years later, Blake's 7 would steal this, and base every set design on a hairdressing salon called Twists of Woking.

3) The music!


Imagine Burt Bacharach had done the music for Star Trek. And you're not even close to the jazz madness. German DJs are obsessed by doing remixes of it to this very day. Here's footage from a 1996 rave. With gogo dancers. Yes.



And here's a fucked-up 70s rock version from the German version of The Old Grey Whistle Test:



4) The sets!


It's very odd watching TV Sci Fi from the 60s that has had money smeared over it. It looks fantastic. Okay, so the navigation computer is (literally) an iron. But apart from that.


5) Robots that look like this



bang.

6) It's in German.
German television only made one science fiction series. This. It lasted half a dozen episodes. And not only is it deeply lovely, but it's so incredibly obscure it can only endear you to people. I'm off to a wedding at the weekend and I am fucking telling everyone I meet about it. Especially if they're called Janet/Terry and work in teaching/accounting or just mention mortgages/compulsory Latin.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nothing much

Has happened this week yet. Sorry.

But I have seen the German series Space Patrol Orion, and it is THE BEST THING EVER:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Felix felicidae

So, last night I take Florence for a walk. I'm trying to get the cat used to trotting down to the Courtyard. She's a lovely creature, but really needs to kill something. If not a mouse, then there are plenty of chav children she's welcome to have a pop at.

However, Florence appears only interested in going upstairs to the fourth floor of our flat block. I've never really been up there - to be honest, it's a bit Terok Nor - all oil slicks and battered woodwork. But Florence loves it.

Florence likes sniffing me. She also likes sniffing dirty mats, seeping bin bags, and those weird stains on concrete. I now realise why, since I've known her, I've broken out in zits.

Finally, she settles down on a particularly filthy doormat and purrs happily. I stand, waiting for her to move on, but she shows no sign. Suddenly, there's movement behind the door and it's flung open. I realise looming outside doors at midnight is not the most neighbourly behaviour.

And there, at the door is an enormous amount of muscle wearing only a small towel. "Yes?" he says, revealing himself to be brilliantly Eastern European.

"I am taking my cat for a walk," I say as casually as possible.

He looks down. And there, rubbing his ankles is Florence. "Ach!" He says. "She is very pretty kitty. Helloooo....!" He smiles at me. Behind him I can hear the inevitable wailing of children. But I don't care. "She may come for walks anytime," he says and shuts the door slowly.

As we walk away, I lean down and say to Florence "Thank you."

Monday, September 29, 2008

A dinner of herbs

The nicest thing about having dinner with people you used to work with is that you can while away hours talking about the vile people you have in common.

"Oh [World's Least Effective Manager] is still there. They re-hired him."
"What? But everything he works on gets shut down."
"I think that's why they rehired him."
"Does he still spend all day on the phone to his wife?"
"He's certainly never even read an email I sent him."
"Do you think that's why he's survived for so long? Perhaps the secret is never to read any email ever."

***

Later:
"... It's weird, it's like I'm in this silo. No one's mentioned firing me for at least six months."

***

Later still:
"I never understood why he got away with doing so little work."
"Well, he was dealing drugs to the entire management team."

***

And finally:
"But would you ever go back?"
We all pause. For just a little too long. "No," we all say.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vet


We've survived our first trip to the vet. Florence is in a lot better shape than I am. The bloody animal has such good manners she even walked into the pet carrier by herself and only mewed with quiet embarrassment whenever the taxi driver fumbled a gear change.

Our vet is called called Emma, and uses a standard of address that I shall immediately apply to all future relationships. She addressed relentless cheeriness to Florence (who wandered happily around the surgery), laced with sugary barbed comments about me. The killing blow was when Florence was weighed. She's put on a kilo in three weeks.

"Well," gushed Emma, "Someone has daddy wrapped around her little finger!"

Daddy? There's a whole horror to that I don't want to go into. Shamed, I left without a murmur.

I'm not even going to bother telling Lee. I know his response: "It's like all your relationships. You pray they'll get too fat to run away."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is it wrong...

To fancy the head of OFCOM?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Meanwhile, Amazon

Clearly, my online shopping has triggered something. They email me out of the blue to suggest great deals "Exclusive Le Creuset white casseroles". Which is fine, only the email accuses me of having used their kitchenware shop before. I haven't. They've simply gone "well, there's a dafty, let's see if he buys some fey cookware".

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book update

New book smell is a nice smell. But my new book smells best of all.

Now it's finally listed on Amazon, it appears to be the #24th best-selling science fiction book. This is a transitory bit of lovely. I am being beaten by The Hobbit, Terry Pratchett, and various Doctor Who things. This I do not mind. But there at Number 8 is a Supernatural spin-off book.

I mean.. Supernatural? That's the show that's basically Brokeback Mountain, but without either horses or fucking.

In other news, my villains took me out for a drink this week. And I gave them a copy of the book. They laughed when they saw their names in print. And then they smirked. "Well, I think you've got us about right," said one. "And are we about to do to John Barrowman what I think we are?"

I nod. And they laugh some more. "You know us so well," they say.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Curious namesakes

One of my namesakes is a lawyer. Or a judge. Or wears a wig, at least. It turns out, he has a hate site dedicated to him. It's all in block capital letters. The entire site. Which makes me think he's innocent.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Disappointment from the Depths of Hell

Recently, I've got into me HP Lovecraft. I always thought he was a nutter read by nutters, and have never really recovered from my date with a Satanist. But I finally started reading some earlier this year, and he is hilarious - Stephen King crossed with Jane Austen. Nothing can top the genteel wit of Charles Dexter Ward, where an entire town politely ignores the raising of the dead.

Raced through it, and then discovered "Shadows Over Baker Street", an anthology of Sherlock Holmes meets Cthulhu. How brilliant - the mixture of drawing room deduction with the madness of the plains of Leng.

Of course, the book itself is rubbish. Yes, there's a story by Neil Gaiman that's worth the price alone (what if Cthulhu's forces ruled the Empire?), but the rest are jubble. Holmes and Watson wander uncomfortably past exploding priestesses and socially awkward tentacles before hurrying back to the safety of 221B.

I guess I shouldn't have expected more. But the great thing about Lovecraft is that he never says exactly what is going on, whereas Doyle deals in complete discovery. Perhaps I was hoping that at some point Holmes would just say "Well, my dear Watson, aeons ago the world was occupied by cunning squids and magic beetles..."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mild cat update

Well, none of the other names seem to fit, so she may well remain "Florence". We've got over our initial awe of each other. She now disapproves of my smoking and my going out every day to earn cat biscuits. I am relearning the horrific smell of freshly coiled cat turd.

Florence is, however, astonishingly well housetrained, has brilliant manners with guests, and has finally worked out how to share a double bed. She now lurks down the bottom of it, letting me get at least four hours of unbroken sleep before she crawls up to my face and stares into it, purring loudly until I wake up and yell with fear.

In the style of The London Paper, her favorite discovery has been how to get under the duvet. I'll frequently find a slow-moving Pyrennees purring its way across the bedroom.

We've also tried the exterior world. I let her onto the landing outside my flat last night. "So long sucker!" she cried, darting off round the corner. Five seconds later she came bolting back and hid under the bed. But we'll get there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weekends with Sexual Gays

I pop down to Brighton to see my twinkie ex Adam, and his new boyfriend/carer, Wouter. They have been in Brighton less than three months. And that is all the time they needed to shag it, bless 'em.

They sit in their flat, with two computers, harvesting boys off the internet in a way that's either thoroughly modern, or oddly chilling. Adam even keeps notes in Excel and has a set of standard replies.

"Ooh look, private pictures from the builder!" Wouter will coo.
Adam will nod, happily. "Great - ask him if he wants to double-fuck next Wednesday, will you, love?"

And then they'll laugh, and pour more gin.

I've always viewed Brighton as a quaintly genteel seaside resort with interesting clubbing and horrible gay bars. But, on the only sunny Saturday this summer, they plonk me on a terrace and explain, patiently, how wrong I am.

If it isn't an eyebrow-burning anecdote about their houseboy, it's the truly awful story about meeting their neighbours.

"Well, we were having a fight, and she knocked on the door, and she said 'Mark and I can hear everything - even when you have sex at 3am.' and we said oh, and she said 'But come down for a drink sometime' and so we did the next week, and got hammered, and she said 'I've always thought watching two guys would turn me on' and so we did, right there on the kitchen table, and then they did, which was odd, as he's really fit and i thought 'what a waste of a great cock', but they're really nice and we get on very well now, don't we?"

Then we walk into town, and there's a woman singing Carmen on a street corner. Wouter and Adam stand there, singing along for a bit, before going off to buy flowers and drugs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Well, a kind of proof

You remember all those rumours that Blake Fielder-Civil was just a random gay Amy Winehouse married? Well, I think digitalspy have disproved it with one headline:

Fielder-Civil opts to stay in prison

Blake Fielder-Civil opts to stay in prison rather than accept early release and live with his mother.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cat litter

Why is it so heavy?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I can has mew


Well, this is "Florence" (name to be decided). I picked her up from the Cats Protection League last night. She was dignified in the cab until we ran out of road and I had to walk her the last half mile. By the time I got to the flat she was wailing like a crashed ambulance.

Five minutes later, though, and she was eating. And didn't really stop. The other thing I've discovered is that she's an explorer. She spent last night trying to solve the Da Vinci Code using my furniture, with occasional complaints that the Knights Templar had stolen her food.

She even waited for me to go to bed, and then curled up next to me. I coughed.
Florence: Are you going to do that all night?
Me: Yes, a little, but I love you.
Florence: Cool. I'll be in the living room. Byeeee.

There was a point when I thought she was happily asleep up at the bottom of the bed, but then realised it was just a jumper. I has a momentary panic of "where is she?" followed by the reassuring rattling of bookshelves and the sound of paperbacks tumbling to the floor.

She has the face of a weary musketeer, and thinks that Breakfast Time is six am. She also has only one mew, the sound of a heart breaking with unbearable misery. It's like being woken by Ingmar Bergman.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Something kinda mew

There is a cat carrier by my desk. It does not currently contain a cat. Just a book by HP Lovecraft and a copy of the Metro. But soon that will change.

She's called Florence (currently) and is so obviously an ersatz boyfriend. She doesn't much like me and flirts madly with my best friend. All she needs to do now is learn my pin number.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Coughing up

Went to the Big Brother wrap party last night. Was having a lovely time, but my ticklish cough was really annoying me so I left early. Glad I did as my cough suddenly got worse and I started throwing up. Which is rank at the best of times, but terrible in front of reality television stars.

Had to walk all the way home, trying not to attract too much tourist horror and tutting as I tried to vomit as discretely as possible every few paces. Ended up taking off my shirt and using that.

By the time I got home, shirt was filthy. At which point I bumped into Margaret the local dog-walking lady, who is always very chatty. So we stood there, having a lovely chat, while her dog sniffed excitedly around my dripping shirt.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Bad and Wrong Boys

I am currently cross that I keep fancying both the Cactus Kid and Adam Sandler. In the case of the latter, my defence is that he does look like Matthew Fox's slightly retarded brother. But I think that's a terrible defence.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

oi! mental

So, you're launching a major US cop show about a mildly psychic detective. It's written by David Nutter. And what do you call it?

The Mentalist
 

Monday, September 01, 2008

Five years of blogging

'ck me. When I started this, I was in my 20s and appeared to have an awful lot of... well, it seems it's true that you slow down in your thirties. Or maybe the boys have got quicker at running away...

Anyway, I was talking to a Novice Gay the other day (so new he's not experimented with hair dye yet). "I read your blog," he said, in the polished way that Modern Youth has. "Well, most of it. It made me feel that I'm in Life on Mars, and you're the gay Gene Hunt."

I laughed at the time, but suddenly went very quiet on the nightbus home.

Somers Town

After all, it's not every day you get a movie filmed outside your house. Stalkers note - My bedroom window is somewhere in this picture:



Is it any good? Well it's deeply charming, funny and warm-hearted. But also completely fantastical. The film depicts my area (which is actually quite lovely) as "Somers Town, the grim, gang-ridden area between Euston and St Pancras" (the FilmFour review).

The gang is especially hilarious. For a start, they're white. Somers Town doesn't really have gangs, and if we do, they're far more multicultural. There are the Indian kids who hang around playing Bollywood music on their phones and tidy up after themselves before going home at 11. There's also the really nasty Ghanain gang, but they're just visiting cos they've been ASBO'd out of Camden. I think the white kids just stay at home, sulking.

By pointing the camera in all the right directions the film manages to depict the grim urban squalor of Chalton Street - neatly leaving out the Sushi restaurant, the gastropub, the juice bar and organic bakery (we may be an inner city slum, but we're very North London at heart).

Finally, our local Turkish cafe with its buxom Latvuanian waitresses is suddenly run by an EastEnd wideboy and the impossibly Gallic Maria, who gaily patters away in French to the customers. Quoi?

On the other hand, the film is full of muscly Polish builders with haunted expressions, so I will forgive it anything.

If you do go and see it, *avoid* the preceding short, Dog Altogether, like dysentry. It's about a man kicking his dog to death, and is as vile as it sounds. The fact that it's twinned with something as optimistic as Somers Town shows how sneeringly silly distributors are. "Well - they're both about poor people in nasty houses, let's put them together."

For one thing, that's not just snobbish, it's stupid. By and large, the middle classes only go and see films about urban brutality if they're set somewhere interestingly foreign with challenging subtitles.
 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Book is real

Well, my book is finally listed on Amazon, which makes it feel more real. It appears to be coming out on the 16th of October. This is also exciting. Mind you, McCoy's now do "Thai Sweet Chicken" flavour crisps, and that's a fact that takes some beating.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympics closing highlights!

Oh marvels! I wake up to see Michael Phelps on BBC Breakfast talking about stroke technique. Bang! And, to top it all, their latest replacement Kerplunk is dressed as Alice in Wonderland.

This puts the jaw-dropping wonder of yesterday's closing ceremony into the shade. Although I suspect it will vividly haunt my dreams. Lots of points for Boris waving a flag. Minus many points for the monstrous lack of taste when the bus folds open to recreate the London skyline in hedges and instead looks like the 7/7 wreckage. Grr.


But then you may have them back for the athletes climbing an airport stairway to nowhere and looking poignant. Lose them again for Leona Lewis flying out of the bus to sing "Every Inch of My Love" - tamed down to "Whole Lot Of Love", which is a shame. We're a nation of hapless shaggers, and should celebrate that to the hilt.

But then, even more points for David Beckham a woman crouched at his knees, smiling and waving. Watching it in a cafe with the sound off, we gasped in giddy wonder. Was the highlight of the ceremony going to be Beckham felated in front of an audience of billions?


Sadly, now I've watched it again with commentary, it appears she's ten. Still, at least it wasn't Tom Daley.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Edinbrrrr

Turning up to the festival this year is a bit like arriving late at a barbeque where it's been raining all afternoon. After a month of solid rain, everyone is sodden. Last year was bad enough, but this year the city flooded.

Those young ladies of student theatre are still wafting around in calico slips and flip flops, while the boys still slump around in t-shirts and afghan scarf-ette things, which really can't help. And yet, you can tell that the rain has got into their souls. The flyering is less hectoring, sometimes suprisingly honest.

"Look," said one yesterday, "They've only been getting four or five people in, so it'd be nice if you went," - like a duty visit to a sick relative in hospital. Then the masterstroke: "And you wouldn't have to go back outside, either..."

By the end of the first day, I am soaked. Worse, I'm staying in a £180-a-night kitchen. Some nightmare of modern student living, it's all steel breadbin and giant oven, with a bed cowering uncertainly in the corner. While we dry out over late vodkas, Rick perches on the bed, Kate wedges herself by the pan cupboard, and I perch on the breakfast bar.

We stand outside to smoke. There's nothing explicitly forbidding smoking in the room, but the receptionist cooed "If you plan on using the toaster or the hob or the shower, the smoke alarm is a mite over-sensitive, so could you pop the extractor fan on?" This is a nice way of saying "It'll go off if you even look at a pack of Camels."

So that is why I'm standing in the street at 3am. It has stopped raining, and I'm wearing all that I own that is dryest. Which is a pair of board shoots and a jumper.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2012 Olympic Ceremony Revealed


Boris Johnson has today revealed that the Bonekickers team will be handling the 2012 Opening Ceremony. A moment of great cultural significance, a big flame, and lots of fireworks... what's the worst that could happen?

Bonekickers drinking game

While we wait for genuine Bonekickers spin-off merchandise - such as a duvet cover that sets fire to itself - here's the Bonekickers Drinking Game. I get the grim feeling that archaeologists did not appreciate this show.

Team GB

I hate the phrase "Team GB". Especially when it just refers to a horsey-looking girl who can swim, and some sailors. Which sounds more like your average crowd at the G-A-Y Bar.

PS: Thank heavens that the weird paedo-lure diving boy is out of the games. It was annoying and wrong. Apparently, straight friends have had similar trouble for years with Hermione in the Harry Potter films, but that doesn't make it better. I'm overjoyed that we now have the Phelps - let's face it, he's the American boyfriend we all dream of - a grinny enormo-lunk who drinks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spooks Code 9


Finally caught up with this. Sadly, nowhere near as entertaining as I'd hoped. It's about a lot of young people running around while a cameraman tries to keep up. It's all very grey and uninvolving. The characters all share a house, which means that they can bitch about terrorist insurgency and hair in the bath - but that doesn't make them at all likeable.

About 20 minutes in, they kill off the only likeable character. "Haha!" it says, "Are you not shocked and surprised?". "Not really," I think, "She was the only reason I was still watching." And so I stop watching.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back hair update

I now have two. Oh, it's horrible being in your thirties.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bonekickers finale


Magwilde! What a woman! Not since Heinrich Schliemann accidentally laid waste to the ruins of Troy in the 1870s has archaeology had such a hero.

In last night's thrilling climax, she finally found Excalibur... and broke it. Lest we forget, this is a woman who's been responsible for the destruction of
  • The True cross
  • Boudicca's body
  • The bones of Joan of Arc
  • and a few temples and shit along the way.


Last night's episode was more jam-packed than an arse at an orgy. Ancient Masonic conspiracies! Dexter Fletcher eaten by rats! A threat to civilisation! Men in masks! Gay Tennyson! A water-soluble vicar!

So, it was a shame that at some point in the script development process, someone said "But what's Gillian's Journey in this episode?". So, as well as scampering through history like an old lady at a jumble sale, Gilly also had to shout at all her friends until they left, and then came back a few scenes later to prove that she was Redeemed.

"No one walks out on me!" she screamed. "Get out!" she roared, "You're fired!" she raged. And then, like a dumped twink, she promptly started texting them.

Then she went to see her mother, and discovered that she'd handily put her in the kind of old people's home that includes a secret cellar under the floorboards of every room. I would love to see the brochure - "Guests are welcome to bring personal belongings, small items of furniture, and millennia-spanning enigmas. No pets."

All the while, Magwilde is being hunted by a secret society run by Justin Timberlake, who turns out to be a torture coffin kept in a stately home. Again, imagine the signs - "Visitors are reminded that we open at 9.30 on Wednesdays to allow for staff training and ritual execution". Luckily, Dolly Parton comes to her aid, shouting "My head is full of dates" (a remarkable fruit-related image) followed by "Don't mess with me, I'm an archaeologist!"

There was an end. It involved a cathedral! Fighting! Scuba diving! Gillian as the Lady of the Lake! The sudden appearance of the Reverend Exposition!

"Reverend Abrams!" gasped the Bonekickers. "Who?" I gasped. "I have no idea who you are." It was like forgetting to include the caretaker in an episode of Scooby Doo. But luckily, he fell in the water and promptly vanished. Like their viewing figures.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Save Bonekickers!

With the audience for last week's (actually rather decent) show down to 3.9 million and Metro calling it "A National Laughingstock", I think we have to rally round.

I'm not sure I can cope without hearing "Magwilde!" bellowed across a trench while some long lost treasure goes up in smoke.

If they cancel the show, we're just going to have to carry on making it.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Oliver Postgate

Oliver Postgate is sadly extremely unwell and is resting at his home in Kent. Please send your good wishes and kind prayers to him, to Naomi his partner and to his children.

He is 83.
[Dragon's Friendly Society]

Really sad.

My book

I was just thinking "hey, I should start linking from here to my book in a shamelessly promotional way" when I discover that it's suddenly no longer listed on Amazon. I find this needlessly, but consumingly worrying. The book's coming out, but it suddenly seems less real if it doesn't exist on Amazon. Wow. What did neurotics do before the internet?

I keep finding myelf composing emails to Amazon but stop as I realise they all make me sound Completely Mad.

Disappointingly...

This week's Bonekickers was actually pretty good. Still had its moments, but the script was just tonnes better, and the characters actually behaved a bit like people. I was nearly as disappointed by last week's Marple, and then they didn't even bother explaining who did one of the murders and the last ten minutes were jubble.

I do hope Bonekickers doesn't stay good. I'd be very disappointed. Mind you, Spooks: Code 9 starts tomorrow, and the trailers look hilariously promising.

In other news, am watching Boston Legal Series 3, which is an object lesson, Harley Street, in how to do an ensemble show about randy professionals dealing with strange things. Rule number one: It's not just about topless Paul Nichols and Suranne Jones in an expensive haircut, you know.

PS: Has anyone worked out what the point of the latest X Files movie was? No, thought not.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Germans got it right

The German title for "Murder She Wrote":

Murder Is Her Hobby. We knew this.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bonekickers Update


My god, this magnificent folly just continues to delight. Although, if it really was a magnificent folly, Dr Gillian Magwilde would have knocked it down by now. She's the kind of woman you imagine always breaks wine glasses at dinner parties, and is the very last person you'd invite round to view your just-finished St Paul's Cathedral modelled in matches.

That said, apart from the trail of smoking devastation she leaves in her wake, her team's track record is quite good.
  • Episode Two: They win the American election
  • Episode Three: They rewrite the history of Boudicca
  • Episode Four: They bring peace to Iraq

To be fair, there were moments when Episodes Two and Three felt like normal television. Then Dr Gillian would say something about "love being at a forty-degree angle", or smash a vital relic, and all would be well with the world.

Some themes are emerging:

Budget There's a hilarious moment in Episode Two where a stately home is supposed to be on fire. But all they can manage is to set fire to some gravel quite near the house. Guffaw! And the future US President gives a speech to an obviously empty lecture hall. Fingers-stuffed-in mouth with joy!

Sexism Dr "Dolly" Parton is suposed to be the new Gene Hunt. Isn't sexism funny, we're supposed to think. Instead, when he tells Plucky Young Viv how it's impossible to look at her without imagining her naked in the shower, soaping herself up, we shudder. He's also remarkably fond of her breasts, which is strange, as she doesn't seem to have any. He also larks about his intercontinteal mucky webcam exploits. Eeee! When Viv complains of being letched over by someone else, he slides closer and offers to show her what real letchery is like. Eurck! Eurck! Eurck! I really don't think television is ready for the "Lovable Dirty Old Man".

Is it day or night? Some episodes are shot in the summer pretending to be winter, some in the winter pretending to be summer. But no-one knows exactly when the sun sets from week to week - is it 4pm or 10pm? So a daylight scene could be later that evening or the next day or who knows when? There's a lovely moment in episode four where no-one seems sure, so one of the characters yawns ambiguosly - yes, ambiguously! - to suggest either "it's getting late" or "I've been sat on this bench all night". Brilliant! And yes, people do sell balloons all night.

Only On TV Dialogue! At the end of this week's episode, Doctor Gillian announces "I've an Etruscan Spear in my hand, and I'm not afraid to use it!". Words cannot describe. But then, all of Episode Four was monster tosh. "There's a killer snake on the loose!" and "You mean Ali could be working for the cultists?".

Actually Episode Four was terrible beyond measure. And therefore almost as joyous as the pilot. Like a music video, characters would change location according to their lines. So, one moment Kamil and Gilly are in an antiques shop, the next they're in a nicely-lit street so he can say "My ancestors had streetlighting when yours were in bearskins".

The ending was nonsense. It featured a lot of people pointing guns at each other, Dr G throwing a priceless artefact in the air, an ancient prophecy, a little girl wanting to go to the toilet, hopeless location confusion between "Are they in the hotel or the museum, or both at the same time?" and the line "Do you want to go to hell?".

It's quite something when the least ludicrous bit of an episode of Bonekickers is the giant snake.
 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bare Facebook

I was never going to like Louise, but I tried my best.

My best friend at Uni was a charming Irishman called Michael. A philosophy student, a heroic drinker, a weirdly-haired charmer he made an announcement at the end of the first year. "Look, you're not doing too well at this gay thing, are you? And, I tell you, if I get to see my girlfriend as little next year, I'll not be doing too well at the straight thing either. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be easier all round if you and I just... you know..." And then he raised an eyebrow. He had great eyebrows.

Of coure, these things never work out quite like that. Michael and I never actually got around to having sex. Mostly because next term he'd realised he could just get a girlfriend who lived a little nearer than Manchester, like at the teacher training college up the road.

So, when I was introduced to Louise, I wasn't going to like her, but I was going to try my best. She wasn't great company. She was a great pouter, but Michael put up with it. He was besotted. The reasons why were fairly obvious. "It's certainly livened up trips to Confession," he admitted.

Our other friend Rob was fairly wary of her as well - but he'd been in the army, so had seen more of the world than me.

But what made it hardest of all was that, polite as I was, Louise sensed something about me and Michael, and she was horrible to me. Never overtly. Nothing you could bring up in conversation, but sharp little looks when Michael wasn't around, "oh, i thought you didn't want to go" and "sorry, didn't think you wanted a drink". But that was okay. I took the hint and avoided her company. Which meant seeing less of Michael. Which was a shame. But I knew when I was beaten.

Eventually, Louise wanted Michael to move in with her full time at training college. But Michael didn't. He'd still see Rob and me, once a week, for booze and toast. But it wasn't the same as it had been.

Gentle, wise Rob tried to sort things out. He and his equally practical girlfriend arranged a supper halfway through the third year. "It should be like old times," he said. "Michael will be there," he paused. "And Louise." I tried a smile. After all, I missed Michael. And supper there was.

Michael was his old self. As was Louise. But oddly, she'd decided tonight was the night to finish this. Michael was out of the room when she struck.

"You're a poof, yeah. Is it insulting if I called you a poof?" she hissed.

I shrugged. "It's about the same as if I said you were fat."

Bingo! She screamed, and ran from the room, wailing "Michael! Michael! James said I was fat!"

Michael came in, a face of fury, his fists already bunching. It was Rob who stopped him from hitting me. And even though everyone else in the room said what happened, that was pretty much it. Louise at one corner of the room, sobbing, her face buried in Michael's shoulder, Michael glaring at me. Pudding was pretty much ignored.

Michael sent me a letter after that. It wasn't a nice one, but it was fairly long. I remember at the time he was favouring burgundy ink. I wanted to write one to explain. "No," said Rob, "It won't help."

So, I didn't really see Michael after that. Louise got her wish, and he moved out of our corridor. You'd see him at a distance at lectures. He'd nod. That was it.

And then one afternoon, I heard a knocking at his door. I popped a head out. It was an old couple. Quite startlingly old. They turned out to be Michael's parents. They'd turned up to surprise him for his last exam, but didn't really know what to do.

I took them down to the exam halls on a bus, and on the way, they talked, as proud parents talk. Of how Michael was such a good Catholic boy. Of how they sometimes wondered if he had the makings of a priest. I had a sudden image of Michael's giggling explanation of why there was a Mars bar smeared across his wall and the way Rob and I had stared at him. But they kept up their proud parent talk, and I did my best nodding public schoolboy thing.

And then there we were, waiting outside the exam halls. It was a small crowd for a not very popular paper. And then I noticed a girl standing there, with balloons and champagne and roses. It was Louise. She crossed over, sneering. "Are these your parents?" she asked.

"No," I said, "They're Michael's."

Louise paled.

"And who might you be?" asked Michael's father, with that Irish sharpness that hints at distant thunder.

Louise realised that, all of a sudden, I could cause all the trouble in the world if I casually said that this was his long-term girlfriend.

"This is Louise," I said simply, "She's another friend of Michael's."

Michael's mother smiled. "Oh, he's lucky to have such good friends as you two."

And then Michael came out. Initially he looked relieved to have finished his exams. And then he saw the group around Louise. And his eyes fastened on me. They said, quite clearly, "This is your fault. I blame you for this." And then he fixed on a smile and walked out to his parents. And I melted quitely away.

And, apart from the occasional regret, I haven't thought about Michael since.

Until today when I get the following, ultimately puzzling message on Facebook: "Hi, this is Louise. I used to go out with Michael Curran. I'd love to know how you are."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Better the Devil You Know

It was the last night of G-A-Y on Saturday. The much-mocked moxy mega-club shut it's mouldering doors in a final shower of Kylie, and finally slid into hell, with only a few balloons floating up from the pit.

It's curious when a chunk of your gay childhood vanishes. I remember when I was still a teenager (I think), saving up for that once-a-month trip to G-A-Y, staggering back to Oxford on the dawn bus, my eyes wide with excitement. It was so loud! It was so Kylie! It was so easy to pull! Jeremy Joseph was so old!

I even slightly remember the one time G-A-Y tried "£15 and all drinks are free". Well, I can remember queuing to get in.

I remember the joy when I moved to London and realised I could go to G-A-Y Every Single Night! That lasted a fortnight. It was like eating McDonalds every day. And that's probably when my gay childhood really ended.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I'm with Stick

I'm walking with a stick at the moment. The reasons are very boring, and it's just a temporary measure, but goodness me, I love Mr Stick. I can't go out without him.

Mr Stick is mostly so I have something to lean on on the Tube. Interestingly, only once has it caused someone to offer me their seat. It was an elderly religious Jewish gentleman. Aghast, I insisted he stay where he was, but thanked him very loudly. Which caused the teenagers with seats to shuffle a little. Healthy, fat bastards.

Much as I love Mr Stick, he is a bit embarrassing. Not since I was dating a teenager have I got so many frankly startled looks. And the worst thing is you suddenly realise that Stick Users are everywhere, and all of them have far greater need of Stick than me. The last two days I've been preceded off the Tube by a blind man and a woman in clear agony with her hip. It means I shuffle off feeling somewhat of a fraud.

A bad thing about Stick is that I'm getting used to him. He's literally become a crutch. The thought of a stagger to Kings Cross without him is now unthinkable. And it's terrible tempting in conversation to use Stick to point at useful things. Plus I've stabbed three people accidentally through their flip flops.

The worst thing about Stick is that tourists somehow assume I'm available to give directions. The other day I was out for a short stagger when two giggling girls blocked my path demanding British Museum. I stopped, fumbled to switch off my MP3, unhooked the headphones and pantingly pointed them in the right direction. They vanished, still giggling. Exhausted, I reached for my MP3 and promptly dropped Stick throught railings into someone's basement. It took half an hour of knocking on various doors to get it back. And then I realised I'd given them the wrong directions.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Targeting the gays

Facebook has got relentless. When I was single it wanted me to go on a Gay Cruise, or even a Gay Camping Holiday (are they insane?). When I was in a relationship, it was determined that I get treatment for male pattern baldness, weight loss, back hair removal or look at some porn. I've now tried switching off that relationship shenanigans, but Facebook isn't deterred.

This week it's tried to get me to sign up for a free gay laptop (advertised by a topless tattooed muscle mary holding a Sony Vaio like a clutchbag), and now Special Gay Fake Tan so I won't look like a toasted badger.

These tings are curiously tiresome. Gmail is equally persistent, sometimes shockingly so (try sending a larky email about an STD and see what happens). It's like having a conversation on a bus with a friend and the slightly creepy man behind you leans over and butts in.

And then there are those links which seem innocent, but aren't. I am trying to book some nice gay-friendly accommodation for Edinburgh this year. One of the links on a quite helpful page suggests that "Liam and Kevin" will be pleased to give me a warm welcome. I click the picture thinking "they seem a bit young to be running a guesthouse, but maybe it keeps their love alive. Awww." (That I occasionally think like this suggests I really haven't left my childhood).

The link did not lead me to a page about their ensuite Gay B&B. The page was called "Filthy Twinks" and featured a variety of underfed Latvuanians about to have Bad Things happen to them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bonekickers


I have found my new Hotel Babylon, and I'm so pleased. After a week of no television, I finally caught up with this. And I'm so glad I did. I kept remembering bits of it in the shower this morning, and then thinking "no, you dreamt that bit. That didn't happen."

BUT IT DID. ALL OF IT. SOMETIMES TWICE. WITH DOVES.

It is simply BANG. It is so joyously wrong it makes you wonder if the commissioning brief said "We are looking for a glossy drama that the Gays can laugh at." Everything about it is perfect - the cast are lovely, it's beautifully shot, and has had money poured over it. But the script...

A few years ago the BBC made "The Young Visiters" based on a 9 year-old's story. Bonekickers goes one better and devotes an entire series to a child's crazy logic. It's like an Armstrong & Miller sketch lasting an hour. Stuff just happens, and keeps on happening, because some screaming brat is yelling AND THAT'S WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. AND THEN THEY FIGHT. LOTS. COS I SAY SO.

So the cast just say stuff that's either wildly clunking or daft. Hopeful young Viv keeps saying that "God is in the little things", and unit head Dr Gillian Magwilde (I had to look it up, but no, that is really her name) talks to her trenches like errant pot plants, cooing "Come on, give up your secrets!".

And yes, suddenly Knights Templar stalk the streets. Brilliantly, they cast Paul Nicholls (last seen kicking gays to death in Clapham Junction) as the loony one who beheads Muslims. Is his agent carving him some sort of niche as a minority slayer? The best thing, though (and I was warned about this, but didn't believe it) is that every one of his lines has been dubbed on afterwards, so it's almost like he's narrating. Sweetly, the two Knights Templar are both pretty boys who share a bedroom, but spend a lot of time in frustrated weeping. "Keep drinking till it gets better" one tells the other. I took this as an instruction. Both end fairly unhappily, and on balance, it would have been better if they'd just shagged.

I could list all of the wonderful moments (but then the internet would fall apart). There's the dead secret order of "Geomantine Monks" whose papers are hidden across time. Or, seemingly, in a university library on a shelf neatly labelled "Geomantine Monks".

There's the lovely local who, when our heroes are looking for the Templar church says, "It's closed, but if it's sightseeing you're after, you can look at my dovecote." And lo and behold, the immaculately clean dovecote contains a neatly sealed paving slab that handily leads to a Secret CGI Templar Chapel. Who would have thought it?

It is at this point that I should point out that the dovecote contains absolutely no birdshit. This distracted me. As much as when one of the characters looks around and says "12 rows, with 56 pigeon holes in each. That's 666 - the number of the beast,"

Two things were wrong with this. Firstly, there were clearly way more than 12 rows in the dovecote. Secondly, 666 divided by 12 is 55.5. Okay, I had to check that, but it seemed fishy maths at the time. Clearly the child in charge was screaming "IT IS RIGHT" and waving around maths homework smeared with jam and melted chocolate.

Anyway, at this dizzying point, they descend into the CGI cavern full of priceless versions of the True Cross. Dr Magwilde promptly sets fire to them ("It is okay, they are just CGI"), and then has a fight over them on ropes with Paul Nicholls and a sword, while underneath plucky Viv sings Jerusalem.

Bang. If ever there was a non-sexual money shot, this was it. I genuinely thought television couldn't get more exciting than Doctor Who the other week, but I was wrong. I tried to stop myself from simply weeing with joy, and couldn't. I had to pause and then watch it all again, jaw swinging gaily in the breeze.

Minutes later, it's over. Not only the True Cross, but also the priceless CGI chamber and the dovecote are destroyed. The owner seems cheerfully delighted at this. The remaining pretty boy Knight Templar is left devastated. What do the main cast do? They trot off to the pub. Laughing.

THE END. COS I SAID SO.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And Just A Hint of Apple


M&S are clearly employing someone with an apple fixation in their Smoothie department. Trying to buy an M&S smoothie that isn't, in fact, mostly apple juice topped up with a bit of strawberry pulp is a challenge.

They even beat you on the double bluff. Their "Kiwi and Apple Cooler - fresh Kiwi with a hint of apple" turns out to be 53% apple juice. That sounds like the kind of hint that involves a brass band and a banner.

Now, yes, this sounds more pathetically middle class than usual, but I'm living off bloody smoothies at the moment, and have taken against the inescapable tang of apple juice. An easier solution, it turns out, is a McD's thick shake. Absolutely no fruit, guaranteed.

I prefer not to think that M&S are just bulking up their smoothies with the cheapest thing they can lay their hands on. Instead, I'm convinced they've employed some apple obsessive, who takes perverse delight in inviting people round for supper and then crowing at the various ways in which he's hidden apples in everything from the soup to the curry and the chocolate blancmange.

My mum is just the same about sultanas, and I can't stand those either.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sarf



South London. For many Londoners it's like the Science Museum - a splendid place that they really intend to visit. One day. When they're not so busy.

People do really live there. Noble souls with firmly-set jaws, and the proud air of someone living with a terrible illness. Whenever someone tells you they're moving South, it's always said bravely. "Honestly, it's really manageable these days. It's ten minutes by bus from Clapham."

You nod sympathetically, ask if there's anything you can do, and think "I will never see you again."

It's never the same if they move to Brighton. You'll see them fairly often, as it's far easier to get to, and has a beach. That makes it an honorable member of Zone 2.

This brings us to another tricky issue. No-one is exactly sure what South London is. Waterloo, for example, is far too central and useful to be South London. Clapham also has its fans, people who are prepared to sit on the Other Bits of the Northern Line, sailing through quaintly-named places that you think were simply painted on the Tube Map to make it look busy.

The problem with Clapham is the people who live there. Oh, they're marvellous, but they're a bit touched, if you know what I mean. If you go there for a dinner party, someone may suggest nipping to Vauxhall for a cheeky disco (Vauxhall is NOT South London. No one knows exactly where it is). And they will always say, "Let's catch the Overland. It's so much easier."

This is the difference between Northerners and Southerners. South London folk have clearly had A Bad Experience on the tube and try and avoid it at all costs. North Londoners thrive on Bad Experiences on the tube. It makes us the haloumi-eating bastards we are today.

But South Londoners are obsessed by the Overland Train. One Clapham friend points out that you do get a magnificent class of Rough on the train. And this is true. You can easily lose your heart and your wallet - but you should never try and take South London Rough home. A friend is currently dating one. In the beginning it was all truculent violence and brutal sodomy. Now he cooks Sunday Roasts and plays Abba CDs. Tragic.

Mind you, he says that since they had that "Clapham Junction" drama about gay bashing, property prices have soared. Which tells you at least four odd things about Londoners, and one dark thing about the human soul.

The Overland Train, along with knife crime and Alexandra de Vane, is South London's most remarkable feature. Yesterday a friend and I both tried to go to Dinner Parties in South London. I was going to "Brockley", she was going to something like "Ebbsfield End". At about 7 o'clock on a Saturday, London Bridge starts to look like a resettlement camp for lost souls clutching bottles of pink fizz. It is full of departure boards listing destinations that are Clearly Invented (Penge?). I found myelf standing next to a baffled Muscle Gay gawping slack-jawed at the board and stroking his Echo Falls for comfort. He glanced at me, and the look said "I normally wouldn't notice you, but if you take me away from all this I will make you happy." I shook my head sadly. I had to get to Brockley.


The Overland Train is just like a proper train that goes to real places, but it contents itself with rattling slowly through Dad's Army destinations called "Upper Warlingham" and "Knockholt". No one ever gets on or off at these stations. Why would they? They're not real.

I once had a friend who lived somewhere far-flung that began with B. You could reach him via an exhausting combination of tube, train and DLR. At the station were trees, fields and cows. This is not South London. This is simply a way of letting the good folk of Kent see Les Mis.

Brockley was lovely. It has a few streets of Very Nice Houses that have been lovingly done up by people Who Wish They'd Bought In Kentish Town When They Had The Chance. It had a lot of trees (each decorated with a picture of a different lost cat), and a variety of 50s utility furniture and Christmas trees lining the pavements.

It also has a Tesco. As Tescos go, it looked like those lonely outposts in Star Trek that are casually wiped out by marauding Klingons. Nervous staff stood behind a counter, ready to beam out at the first sign of trouble. The stock was almost entirely crisps and nappies. "It's really changed the area," said my friend Joe, "There's even a gay couple who shop in here sometimes. You never saw them at the 24-hour corner shop."

At the end of a lovely evening, I stood on a freezing platform, next to a drunk man who was simultaneously pounding the information point and urinating.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Not dead!

Merely resting.

Anyway, hasn't Big Brother been fabulous? It's given us Vilest Woman Alive, Alexandra De Vane (surely a shoo in as next Doctor Who companion), and also managed to break a taboo that no-one had really imagined showing on television before, that of sulky gay Dennis spitting on a Muslim.

It's really been full of "I can't believe that just happened," moments. This year, truly will be the year that one of the housemates invents a bacterium which escapes and destroys humanity.

Of course, the real joy is offered by these two:


Ah, Dale and Stuart. With Stuart's arrival, Dale's visions of Alpha Maledom crumbled. The question is, what happens next? Well, they've worked out together, but Stuart has yet to prove his ultimate supremacy over Dale. Which will probably take place with Brokeback-style sodomy on the live stream. Well, that's why I keep tuning in at any rate.